By Johnny Jackson
School begins in less than a week for many students across the Southern Crescent, which means parents will be rushing out this weekend to purchase school supplies.
Beginning at 12:01 a.m., Thursday, consumers statewide will be able to buy certain clothing items, school supplies, computers and computer accessories free of state and local sales taxes, during the state's eighth annual tax-free holiday. The holiday, signed into law on May 4, will last until midnight Sunday.
The sales-tax holiday is an opportunity for parents and teachers to save on necessary back-to-school supplies, said Vickie Thomas, vice president of retail operations of The School Box.
Thomas said the school supplies retailer, which has locations in McDonough and Morrow, has seen a steady stream of business already this summer. "People have come out earlier than in the past," Thomas said. "I would expect more people with the economy the way it is. I do think people will be shopping this weekend, watching every penny they've got."
She said that some timeless, hot-ticket items on back-to-school lists include hand-writing paper and certain pencils, as well as rest mats for younger students, who need mid-day naps. For teachers, who will likely be looking for deals this weekend, too, popular items include paints and projects-oriented tools.
Staples, which has store locations in McDonough and Morrow, is hosting its annual Teacher Appreciation Day on Saturday, from 9 a.m., until 1 p.m., when teachers can get special deals on school supplies.
"Every year, teachers reach into their own pockets to pay for classroom supplies," said Jevin Eagle, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing for Staples.
"They contribute generously and selflessly, putting their students' well-being above themselves," Eagle said. "Teacher Appreciation Day is our way of showing teachers how much they are valued, and helping them get the supplies they need to do their job."
Area principals have asked that back-to-school lists for this year be scaled back significantly to include only those supplies necessary for day-to-day classroom instruction. "I've asked teachers to pare back their supply lists," said Pam Consolie, principal at Timber Ridge Elementary School in McDonough.
She said parents should look closely at what is necessary for their children in order to save money. Students are traditionally required to have paper and pencils, and are usually asked to have other supplies that will help enrich their academic experience.
"If they [parents] have the ability to ask their teachers if they can help out, then do that," Consolie added. "That would be very helpful. Otherwise, just get the basics."
"A backpack is something that's going to help their child be successful, because the child will be able to take work home," she said. "Look at what your child uses and make a determination on what's needed. Don't spend money on things that are not on the list, [but] that your child just wants. That's a waste of money."
While schools themselves are cutting back on supplies as well, she explained, nothing will change in the school-day operation. "Instruction won't change at all," she said. "School will take place just like it's always taken place. We just have to be more creative."
During the sales-tax holiday, school supplies bought for classroom use or classroom-related activities are exempt if they cost $20 or less, per item, according to Gov. Sonny Perdue's Office. Qualifying items include pens, pencils, notebooks, paper, book bags, calculators, dictionaries, thesauruses, children's books and books listed on approved school reading lists for pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.
To learn more about what will be tax exempt this weekend, visit the state Department of Revenue's web site at https://etax.dor.ga.gov. Information is also available at the department by phone at (404) 417-6601.